Jan 1, 2015

A Cathedral Of Nature

The Natural History Museum
South Kensington - London, UK
This museum opened its doors in 1881, and the only thing more beautiful than the building itself is the wealth of knowledge and history of the natural world that is on display inside.

Our first visit to the museum was on December 28th, and despite spending much of the day there, we were only able to see a fraction of the exhibits on display.  I'm pretty sure that Lady Gaga was there too.  No joke - she was right next to me, and when I got back to the hotel, I looked it up and saw that she's in London right now.  However, I was in full nerd mode and the museum had my full attention, so by the time I realized she was there, she had moved on.  I'm not sure what I would have said to her anyway.  I'm sure she doesn't need a random fan gushing about her music when she's trying to relax and enjoy a day at the museum.

We became members of the museum and got to take the behind-the-scenes guided tour of The Spirit Collection.  Included in this collection were specimens collected by Charles Darwin, and Archie, a fully preserved giant squid that measures 8.62 meters.  That's over 28 feet long - larger than a London bus.  Photography wasn't allowed during that portion of the tour so I don't have any pictures, but it was truly amazing [update: the museum has shared a video of Archie on YouTube].

Before we flew home, we visited one last time.  Because we were members, we were able to enter the museum a little bit before it opened to the public, so I was able to get a few photos of the museum while it was still mostly empty.  There's no way that I'm going to be able to do justice to how incredible of an experience this museum is, but I'm happy to share what I can.

This is Dippy, a complete cast of the fossilized bones of a Diplodocus.  The skeleton was discovered in Wyoming in 1898 and was acquired by Andrew Carnegie.  Carnegie donated a full cast of the skeleton to King Edward VII, and it's been on display here at The Natural History Museum for over 100 years.

This is the view of the main lobby of the museum from the statue of Charles Darwin.  The large round object you can see at the top center of the photo is a slice of a Giant Sequoia tree that has been on display at the museum since 1893.

Based on the study of its rings, the tree was determined to have been a sapling in 557 AD.  It lived for 1,300 years and grew to be over 330 feet tall before it was cut down in California in 1891.  The rings of the tree are marked to show the historical events that have taken place during the life of this tree.  For example, this Sequoia was 1,000 years old when Shakespeare and Galileo were born in 1564.

Here is the view of the main entrance of the museum taken from the location of the Giant Sequoia specimen.  The white statue at the top of the first staircase in the center is Charles Darwin.

And here's me being a great big nerd standing next to the statue of Darwin.

So, now that you've seen the main entrance lobby, keep in mind that this is a small area when compared to the entire museum.  There are five main collections: botany, entomology, mineralogy, paleontology and zoology, and the museum is home to over 80 million exhibits and specimens.  I could visit every day for a year and still not see all of them, so the photos below are a ridiculously small sample of things that you can see and learn about in the museum.